Ancestor Veneration: Is it the worship of the ancestors or God?


From Adam and Eve, Noah was the tenth descendant. Noah’s parents were Lamech and Batenos. Noah and his wife, Emzara had Shem, Ham and Japeth as their children. The children of Shem were Elam, Ashur, Arphaxad, Lud and Aram, in addition to daughters. Abraham, the patriarch of the Jews, the Christians and the Muslims, was one of the descendants of Arphaxad. Islamic literature describes Shem as one of the believing sons of Noah. Ham, according to the Table of Nations in the book of Genesis, was the second son of Noah and the father of Cush (Ethiopia), Mizraim (Egypt), Put (Libya), and lastly Canaan (Canaanites are believed to be the first people in Israel). Ham’s descendants are interpreted by Flavius Josephus and others, as having populated Africa and adjoining parts of Asia (Wikipedia). He was born in 2444 BC and his grand-children were: Nimrod, Seba, Heth, Raamah, Sabtah, Sabtecah, Ark, Sin, Amor, Hevllah, Girgash, Jebus, Zidon, Hamath, Arvad, Zemar. Grandparents of Noah were Methuselah, Barakil, Edna. His great-grandparents were Enoch, Azrial, Edna. Japheth is one of the three sons of Noah in the Book of Genesis, in which he played a role in the story of Noah's drunkenness and the curse of Ham, and subsequently in the Table of Nations as the ancestor of the peoples of the Aegean Sea, Anatolia, and elsewhere (Wikipedia). The children of Japheth were: Turk, Magog, Gomer, Meshech, Javan, Madai, Tubal, Tiras. His grand-children were: Togarmah, Ashkenaz, Kittim, Riphath, Dodanim, Elishah, Eteva, Phanatonova, Melka. His great great-grandchildren were: Selah, Hayk, Caucas, Kartlos. His grandparents were: Lamech, Betenos, Rakel.

                                                Adam and Eve                                                    

                                                Noah – 10th descendant through Sethite line                                                                 


Many people believe that veneration of familial ancestors, especially if it is practiced in the form of rituals, is the worship of ancestors. Whether they agree wholeheartedly or dissociate themselves vehemently from this belief, is what will lead many people to want to learn more about ancestor veneration, especially after listening to a different but somewhat related conversation between a Christian Pastor, a Jewish Rabbi, and a Muslim Imam on the same platform.


According to Beyers and Mphahlele (Herv. teol. stud. vol.65 n.1 Pretoria Jan. 2009), not all living have the privilege of becoming an ancestor. Two conditions are identified by Sarpong (1996, as cited by Stinton 2004:134–135):

  1. One must pass through all stages of life to attain adulthood, which is only considered to arrive once one has had children and so has transmitted life.
  1. One must die a natural death. Death by accident, suicide, unclean diseases or in childbirth is not considered a good death.

The natural relationship between the ancestor and earthly descendants is usually that of parent and offspring. Children consider parents and grandparents as direct ancestors.

Functions of Ancestors

There are three distinct functions of ancestors (Stinton 2004:135). Stinton mentions how Shorter calls the first function that of 'liturgical companions to the living' (1983, cited in Stinton 2004:135). The second function is to operate as mediators between God and humans (Stinton 2004:135). Stinton shows how Mbiti refers to the third function of ancestors as guardians of family affairs, traditions, ethics and activities (Mbiti 1989:85).

In the social structure of African cultures it is impossible for a person to approach a higher ranking individual, like for instance the village chief. Intermediaries are necessary. In the same fashion ancestors function as the 'go-betweens' between humans and God (Nürnberger 2007:33). Nürnberger is of the opinion that ancestors do not act on behalf of the Supreme Being and do not mediate sacrifices or prayers directed by humans to the Supreme Being. At most, ancestors derive their supernatural power from the 'pool of power' (Nürnberger 2007:33). The ancestors become the authority themselves that give advice and blessings (and misfortune) to humans (Nürnberger 2007:33). Ancestors therefore seem only to mediate the power from the Supreme Being.

Bae, Choon Sup and van der Merwe, P J (Herv. teol. stud. vol.64 n.3 Pretoria Jul. /Sep. 2008), assert that from a hierarchical superior position to humans, ancestors are inferior to God and act as mediators between God and humankind. Even holy functionaries like witchdoctors operate through the mediation of ancestors (Mbiti 1989: 84). Ancestors are not of divine nature. Together with their descendants, ancestors worship God (Stinton 2004:135). As mediators between God and humankind, ancestors do not possess the power to mediate salvation.

According to the, ANCESTOR WORSHIP by Joseph Jacobs, many anthropologists are of opinion that ancestor worship was the original form of religion (H. Spencer, Lippert); the school represented by Stade and F. Schwally argues that it was the original religion of Israel before Jahvism was introduced by Moses and the Prophets. According to them, much of the priestly legislation was directed against the rites connected with Ancestor Worship.


For the question asked earlier, Ham becomes the centre of attention more geographically than politically. Three narrations from Genesis 9:19-29 set the basis upon which ancestor veneration is contextualized, most especially in Africa. It’s recommended to listen to each short narration now than later at: and find:

  1. Ham (Son of Noah).
  2. Noah’s Nakedness, the sin of Ham, and the Curse of Canaan.
  3. Canaan (Son of Ham).

Ancestor Veneration Ritual in AFRICA.

It’s interesting to note how Christians, Jews and Muslims believe in the same God, and how ancestors are not foreign in their spiritual convictions.  

Before thinking of other people as probably being crazy, it’s prudent to listen first to the astounding conversation between three experts in the form of Imam of Islamic faith, Rabbi of Jewish faith, and Pastor of Christian faith, so as to broaden one’s perspective before hastening to ASK 4Help, especially about how to perform Ancestor Veneration Ritual in Africa. Hit:

  1. Islam, Judaism, and Christianity – A Conversation.
  2. Islam, Judaism, and Christianity – The Conversation Continued.

It’s even more interesting for most people to learn and discover how little is known, and how much is not known about each other's religions!

ASK 4Help

As for me and my family, for the Lord’s Prayer, we say, “Thy Will be done on Earth; as it is done in Heaven”! To connect our wisdom with our ancestors and Almighty God, we do and submit that:

For what we desire on Earth, we follow the protocols to get to the ‘most superior person’ we seek, as we believe the same is done in Heaven!
For what we desire from Heaven, we venerate our Ancestors and ask for what we desire on Earth to come true!
For our desire to be realized on Earth, we perform Ancestor Veneration Ritual and ask for what we desire to come true from Almighty God!

The belief in ancestors stands central in the traditional African thought and is an essential pillar of religious practices in Africa (Stinton 2004-133 - 134)

Together with their descendants, ancestors worship God (Stinton 2004-135). As mediators between God and humankind, ancestors do not possess the power to mediate salvation.

For the Ancestors of Jesus Christ, read Matthew 1 Verses 1:17, and Luke 3 Verses 23:38.

Muslims believe that Ishmael was the firstborn of Abraham, born to him from his wife Sarah’s slave, Hagar. Ishmael is recognised by Muslims as the ancestor of several Northern prominent Arab tribes and the forefather of Adnan, the ancestor of Muhammad: Ishmael – Wikipedia.

According to the religious narrative of the Hebrew Bible, the Israelites' origin is traced back to the biblical patriarchs and matriarchs Abraham and his wife Sarah, through their son Isaac and his wife Rebecca, and their son Jacob (who was later called Israel, whence they derive their name) with his wives Leah and Rachel and the handmaids Zilpa and Bilhah: Israelites – Wikipedia.

  1. Do you believe that if you ask your ancestors for your vision or desire to come true, you will be responded to?
  2. If you don’t believe, would you nevertheless like to be coached on how your wisdom connects with Almighty God through your ancestors?
  3. Would you like to know how to connect your wisdom with your ancestors and realize feedback from Almighty God?

Mine is to help you enhance your performance, business, relationship, profession, and spiritual life by showing you:

  1. How to create a vision or desire.
  1. How to plan for ancestor veneration ritual. 
  1. What to do to invite ancestors.
  1. How to ask for a vision or desire to come true.
  1. Why change habit, attitude and behaviour.
  1. How to celebrate ancestor veneration ritual.



Our success or failure in life is determined by our behaviour, and the decisions we make to reach out for our vision. Behaviour, in this context, is the manifestation of influence from our attitude towards others, ancestors and God. Decision refers to the action we take towards being responsible for our destiny, including our commitment to being accountable to the consequence of our own action.

Ancestor veneration is a solemn ritual of hope that the ancestors will ask God to effectuate a prayer on behalf of their descendant. Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela (Madiba) once said, “Hope is a powerful weapon, and no one power on earth can deprive you of.”

For spiritual, professional, political, personal, motivational, health, relationship, business, transformation, research and innovational development, people continue to derive great values and also provide considerable feedback by freely subscribing to: from where they are able to access specific Playlists, some of which unraveling the daunting question mark; as big as the whole map of Africa.

If the above values resonate with you, and you would like to dive very deep into your situation, hit, ASK 4Help, and I will respond and book a free discovery call with you for 30 - 45 minutes on Zoom or Microsoft Teams.

Donald Mafomane (Phungwayo)

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